It’s intriguing that amid record-high inflation—a time during which one would expect consumers to cut back on unnecessary spending—$5 Crumbl Cookies are flying off the shelves. Crumbl is a gourmet cookie franchise company that has taken the country by storm. With more than 590 locations opening over the last five years, this Utah-based company is one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the country.
Crumbl Cookie’s history
Cousins Jason McGowan (CEO) and Sawyer Hemsley (COO) opened Crumbl Cookies in Logan, Utah, in 2017. The cousins knew little about baking at first but were committed to testing and experimenting with recipes, learning along the way.
Before opening, McGowan and Hemsley would make small, incremental changes to their chocolate chip cookie recipe, gathering feedback from friends and family along the way until they found the perfect combination of ingredients. McGowan estimates the duo spent $10,000 on ingredients during its initial development phase. When they opened their first shop, they only offered one cookie flavor, and now the cookie chain has more than 200 flavors on rotation.
McGowan used his background in technology to integrate cookie delivery into the company’s business model from the start. Crumbl uses a mix of first-party and third-party delivery.
Crumbl introduced franchising after it opened its third location. McGowan and Hemsley had family members who were interested in joining the business, and franchising felt like a natural next step. As the company grew, so did requests from prospective franchisees.
Making dessert a shared experience
Crumbl has spent virtually $0 on advertising, relying solely on word-of-mouth and good branding. The company uses a signature pink box to make its sweet treats recognizable and picture-perfect for sharing on social media. The cookies are so iconic, Spirit Halloween released a limited edition Crumbl sugar cookie costume that quickly sold out.
Another thing that makes Crumbl unique is the way it turned a simple dessert into an experience. The cookie stores have a limited menu that changes every week, creating scarcity. This causes excitement on social media as people anticipate the weekly menu announcement. Crumbl has a massive social media following with 6.1 million TikTok followers, 3.1 million Instagram followers, 1.8 million Facebook followers, and 1 million YouTube subscribers. The oversized cookies that come in a 4-pack, 6-pack, or 12-pack are also perfect for sharing with friends and family or giving as a gift.
Social media is an integral part of the Crumbl brand. The company engages its audience on social media and through surveys to gather feedback to perfect its recipes and crowdsource new ideas. This feedback loop helps customers feel like they are valuable members of the Crumbl community.
An affordable indulgence
Though it seems unlikely at first to hear that a gourmet cookie business is thriving in the current economy, it actually makes perfect sense. Many consumers see a cookie (or even a tube of lipstick) as an affordable indulgence and a quick escape from reality. During periods of economic stress, people enjoy a low-cost splurge that won’t break the budget. This could also explain the success of Portland-based donut chain Voodoo Doughnuts which often has a line of customers wrapped around the building.
Crumbl Cookies is loving its sweet success. Its locations average $1.7 million in sales and more than $350,000 in net profit selling little more than cookies and ice cream.
In the Classroom
This article can be used to discuss buying behavior (Chapter 11: Customer-Driven Marketing).
How has Crumbl turned a simple dessert into an experience?
Explain how social media has contributed to Crumbl’s success.
Describe the role of feedback in Crumbl’s business.
This article was developed with the support of Kelsey Reddick for and under the direction of O.C. Ferrell, Linda Ferrell, and Geoff Hirt.
Brittany Kasko, "‘Crumbl Cookies’ Franchise Owner Reveals Why Americans Are Spending $5 on a Single Cookie," Fox News, October 24, 2022, https://www.foxnews.com/lifestyle/crumbl-cookies-franchise-owner-reveals-americans-spending-single-cookie (accessed October 31, 2022).
Crumbl Cookies, "Our Story," https://crumblcookies.com/history (accessed October 31, 2022).
Jonathan Maze, "The Story Behind Crumbl Cookies' Sweet Success," Restaurant Business, May 4, 2022, https://www.restaurantbusinessonline.com/financing/story-behind-crumbl-cookies-sweet-success (accessed October 31, 2022).